Sonora sipped her tea and sat back in the overstuffed papadum. The sheepskin covering was so soft it made her hand numb. The tea was delicious, fragrant and soothing. She was dressed in red silk, her favorite color; not red, per se, but a pinkish version of red with undertones of orange. Precisely her favorite color, as was the way in heaven.
She had but to imagine it, and her slightest wish manifested.
Except. There was one area that when she tried…
A fluffy little white dog appeared at her side and nosed her hand. What had she been thinking? It didn’t matter. This dog was so sweet. Its cold black nose tickled and pushed its way under her hand to be petted. She obliged and it wagged its tail rhythmically against the bottom of the chair. She sipped her tea again and let the beat of the dog’s tail morph into a concert of taiko drums.
A group of dancers appeared, three men costumed in white lycra body suits. They leaped over each other and stretched with impossible grace. One landed a flip into a pushup, the next rolled a backward somersaultright onto the first one’s prone legs and up onto his back, the third sprang up, flipped over the first two and landed on his hands, arching his feet behind him to wave comically in the other two men’s faces. All of this happened to the insistent drumbeat of the band behind them.
She set down her tea and joined the dancers, her flowing silk wafting around her as she spun and reached. A tropical breeze caressed her skin as she broke a light sweat. The musicians signaled a break, and she bowed as the group retreated. The dog had disappeared.
Her mind returned to the puzzle. Had she been a dancer? Or had she only wished to be? Again her thoughts crept toward her past, and again, a marvelous distraction of the rich scent of baking bread swept her thoughts away.
A opening appeared in the wall in front of her. A fat baker smiled, his brown eyes twinkled as he kneaded dough on a huge wooden counter. Flour floated in the air in a magical dust around his head. The oven behind him pumped a pleasant warmth into the room.
The thoughts were not always unbidden. She could have anything she wanted. Girlfriends and cocktails, a sense of accomplishment, a baby, a lover, a degree. In an instant she grasped the most complex concepts: philosophy, astrophysics or biology, she had only to choose.
How long had she been here?
She said it aloud. “I want to know who I was.”
The room turned blank. White walls, floor and ceiling, with a podium in the center, on which she found a pen and a scroll of paper that read, You may know, but you must leave.
There was a line at the bottom with an X for her signature. She examined her siken robe. She supposed she could keep that, or would she be expected to go out naked? The knowledge came to her.
You may keep the robe.
She picked up the pen and signed.
A crack appeared in the wall – jagged and tall, it split the room. A cold wind blew in, a gust of sand sprayed her face. She looked out. Blue sky towered over an expanse of sand. She remembered. She was a potter. She had a boy, he liked to draw. Her husband drank a little too often. He liked to hold hands. Her parents were dead. The life came back to her like a freight train. The room became too bright to bear and compelled her to exit through the crack.
She stepped out into the desert and slowly made her way back.